Lung Cancer Symptoms
In this article, we'll take a look at some lung cancer symptoms, along with some treatment options like XALKORI® (crizotinib), a prescription medicine used to treat people with non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC).
Common Symptoms of Lung Cancer
1. A Persistent Cough
Having a cough that won’t go away is one of the most common lung cancer symptoms. While there are many different reasons why you may have a persistent cough, you should get it checked out if it lasts for more than three weeks.
Changes to an existing cough can also be a symptom of lung cancer. You may cough up phlegm which is rust-colored or contains flecks of blood. Your cough may be painful and the sound of it might change. You might find that your cough is worse at certain times of the day, or it may be present all of the time.
2. Shortness of Breath
Another common symptom of lung cancer is shortness of breath. You may find yourself getting out of breath more easily than normal, or your breathing becomes painful. This is because tumors can cause fluid to build upon your lungs, making it harder to breathe.
3. Chest Pain
People with lung cancer often experience chest pain. This pain can be either dull or sharp in nature, and will often be worse with deep breathing, laughing or coughing.
Lung cancer can also cause pain in the shoulders or arms, although this is much less common.
Another symptom of lung cancer is a hoarse or croaky voice. This happens when a tumor causes extra pressure on the nerve which controls your larynx (windpipe).
Hoarseness can be a sign of something as simple as a cold or flu, but if it goes on for more than three weeks, you should have it investigated.
5. Chest Infections
Recurring chest infections, or chest infections that do not respond to treatment, could be another symptom of lung cancer.
Some common examples of chest infections include bronchitis and pneumonia. Symptoms include shortness of breath, chest pain or tightness, and coughing up mucus which is yellow or green in color.
6. Weight Loss
If you lose weight without dieting or changing your exercise regime, this could also be a symptom of lung cancer.
Unplanned weight loss can happen due to a tumor making proteins that tell your body to lose weight, and you might also feel like eating less than usual.
There are other reasons why you may unexpectedly lose weight, but most of them are serious, so if you have this particular symptom, make an appointment with your doctor as soon as possible.
7. Bone Pain
When lung cancer spreads to other parts of the body, it can cause a variety of different symptoms including bone pain.
The bone pain associated with lung cancer is often described as deep and aching. The back and hips are often the first areas to be affected, and the pain may be worse at night or when lying down.
If you suffer from bone pain, ask your doctor for a bone scan or blood test to find out what is causing it and whether it could be a lung cancer symptom.
Everybody feels tired from time to time, but fatigue is a kind of extreme tiredness that can be overwhelming and make it difficult to carry out your normal activities.
If you are suffering from fatigue as a result of lung cancer, you might find that you feel exhausted for most of the day and that resting does not help.
Lung cancer fatigue may be due to cancer cells using up much of your body’s energy, or releasing chemicals that affect the way your body makes energy from food.
9. Swollen Neck or Face
In some cases of lung cancer, a tumor can push against the vena cava, the vein that carries blood from the upper body to the heart. This causes swelling of the neck and face and is known as superior vena cava syndrome.
Other symptoms of superior vena cava syndrome include headaches and dizziness. It usually comes on slowly but can be very serious and needs to be treated fast. This is why it is important to call your doctor immediately if you have any of these symptoms.
10. Finger Clubbing
Lung cancer can also cause what is known as finger clubbing. This often starts as your nail bed becomes softer and the skin around it becomes shiny. Your nails may then begin to curve more than normal, or the ends of your fingers may become swollen.
It is unclear exactly what causes finger clubbing, but it is thought that changes in blood circulation cause fluid to collect at the fingertips. It is quite an unusual symptom, but lung cancer is the most common cause, so if you notice changes like this, then get them checked out.
Other Symptoms of Lung Cancer
Lung cancer wreaks havoc with your entire body, and as well as these ten common symptoms, there are many more possibilities. Lung cancer can sometimes cause something known as paraneoplastic syndrome. This is when a tumor causes hormonal changes leading to symptoms that seem unrelated to the lungs. These include:
- Pins and needles or numbness in the fingers and toes.
- Muscle weakness.
- High levels of calcium in the blood.
- Breast swelling in men.
- Blood clots.
Most lung cancer symptoms can also be caused by other conditions, and the only way to know for sure is by asking your doctor to run tests such as a chest X-ray.
Treatment Options for Lung Cancer
Treatment options for lung cancer can vary depending on the type and stage of the cancer. Here are some treatment options:
- Lobectomy or pneumonectomy to remove the tumor or affected lung tissue.
- Wedge resection for smaller tumors.
- Lymph node removal (lymphadenectomy) to check for metastasis.
- External beam radiation: High-energy beams target and destroy cancer cells.
- Internal radiation (brachytherapy): Radioactive sources placed directly into the tumor.
- Systemic drugs to kill cancer cells throughout the body.
- May be used before or after surgery, or in combination with radiation.
- XALKORI® (crizotinib): Specifically targets cancers with ALK gene mutations.
- Other targeted therapies may target EGFR, ROS1, BRAF, or MET mutations.
- Immune checkpoint inhibitors (e.g., pembrolizumab, nivolumab) to boost the immune system's ability to fight cancer.
One of the most common and most serious types of cancer is lung cancer. Lung cancer often associated with smoking, and while it is true that around 85 percent of cases of lung cancer are found in smokers, anybody can be affected. This is why it is important for everybody to be familiar with the various symptoms of lung cancer. Catching this disease early could save your life!
If you are suffering from any of the symptoms above and are concerned that you may have lung cancer, make an appointment as soon as possible. The earlier lung cancer is detected, the better your chances of survival.